Even with the Detroit Red Wings’ recent struggles and the absence of Pavel Datsyuk, losing to the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Sunday evening would have been a low point to a season that’s already had its share of frustrations—esepcially when the Sabres were christening some of the ugliest thrid jerseys in recent NHL memory.
Thanks to Detroit’s Swedish connection, we don’t have to ponder such a fate. Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson both found the net, and Jonas Gustavsson continued his strong campaign as the Red Wings fought out of an early 1-0 hole to leave the First Niagara Center with a 3-1 victory.
Despite outshooting the Sabres 14-6 over the first 20 minutes, the Red Wings trailed 1-0 at the first break thanks to Cody Hodgson‘s eighth goal of the season. Darren Helm quickly erased that deficit, scoring just 30 seconds into the second period on a spinning backhand from the slot.
Franzen put Detroit in front 11:42 into the third when his power play shot from the right circle hit the blocker of Ryan Miller and bounced up over his shoulder and in. He almost added an empty-netter as well, but settled for an assist as he set up Alfredsson, making his return to the lineup from a groin injury, to ice the game with 49 seconds left in regulation.
Gustavsson wasn’t tested too often since the Wings outshot the Sabres 34-22 and took only two minor penalties—a big change from Saturday’s whistle-fest against the Ottawa Senators. But the Monster did make several big saves when the game was still in doubt, including his denial of Buffalo captain Steve Ott‘s penalty shot.
Henrik Zetterberg picked up the 700th point of his NHL career with his assist on Franzen’s goal. The Red Wings’ captain also moved into second place in the league scoring race, trailing only Sidney Crosby.
Though the win was one the Red Wings had to have to feel good about themselves, it was only their second in the last 10 games. The team returns to Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday night to host the Boston Bruins. They’ll be a tougher but better dressed opponent.
The game was over when:
The power play came through again. Even during recent losses, the team has played well with the man advantage, converting eight times in six games entering Sunday. Buffalo didn’t give Detroit too many chances to add to that total, but the Wings found a way to cash in when it mattered.
The unsung Red Wings hero was:
Joakim Andersson, who had the fourth line operating at a properly energetic pace. He played a responsible defensive game befitting his role and still managed to lead the team with five shots on goal.